Bad PR practice isn’t about new media training…

From a blog relations perspective there’s a very interesting discussion taking place around a bloggers event that was organized by Johnson & Johnson (and their PR firm).

For the sake of brevity you can read Susan Getgood’s post for more detail here.

In effect, the event was for "mommy bloggers"* and two attendees, Julie Marsh and Stefania Pomponi Butler, had their invitations revoked for pretty spurious reasons – one because she could only attend part of the event, and one because she had to bring her nine week old son.

Not very clever.

I should point out that according to Susan’s post, J&J are open to getting the feedback and will learn from the experience.

Jeremy Pepper also wrote a post using this issue as the catalyst on how agencies need to train their staff or face the consequences.

He makes a lot of sense.  PR people need to wake up and understand that if they wish to help their clients participate, and communicate online, then they need a better grasp of how it works.

I have to say in defence of our profession (and I use the term advisedly :-) ) I’ve seen a lot of interest and commitment from PR practitioners in learning more about how online communication is changing. 

There’s a lot of people who recognize the need for a new approach.

But let’s talk turkey.

Traditional PR practice isn’t exactly a beacon of professional excellence is it? If you take traditional media relations as the lowest common denominator, journalists still receive irrelevant pitches, with no strong news or story element.

Why would we expect the online world to be any different?

If you have a blog you’ll get the opportunity to see the other side of the fence. Yes there are people who take the time and target you with a story, but the vast majority is pure spam and not even entertaining spam at that. {Furthermore if they’re pitching me, they obviously haven’t researched which blogs are read by more than a couple a people a month!]

The beauty of the online world is that bloggers call people out on poor pitches. Rather than "throw the release in the trash" they blog about silly people making silly pitches. [You even have an online blog you can use to point the finger at bad practice].

The reality is that the bar to "doing" Public Relations is sufficiently low that "everyone" can attempt it.

Furthermore, you have junior staff now undertaking the modern equivalent of what many of us had to do in the days before the Internet:

 

"Hello, Ms. Journalist did you get the release?.. would you like a photo…."

 

PR firms serious about helping their clients online, need to get their act together.

There is a huge learning opportunity from the hundreds of PR blogs already online.

There are online events like this and this as well as thousands of "Web 2.0" events in every city, country and continent.

But this isn’t just about training.  This is about a clear commitment to understanding online communications, understanding the tools, the channels, and most importantly of all understanding how to participate as a full value member rather than a flack.

It’s pretty easy to spot the difference.

PS:

Regarding the J&J issue, at least they have gone through the exercise of understanding that the online audience is important. Some elements of the execution was less than stellar but they’re open to learning.  No one has all the answers.

PPS:

Just an overall observation and not one specific to this post.  Bloggers are inclined to pull the trigger and examine the corpse afterwards.  Sometimes contemplation, perspective, and deep breathing are useful tools.

*I think this is the correct term :-)

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